Term Paper: Hunger Artist

Pages: 4 (1281 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Hunger Artist

Let's face it: nowadays, people are not interested anymore in professional fasting, while some years ago, everybody bought tickets only to watch a starving artist in his public cage. This is only a starting idea in a row of even stranger ideas and mixtures between the real and the surreal in Kafka's short story, a Hunger Artist, written in 1922.

The plot structure of the story is divided into three parts and each of them stands for a metaphoric profound meaning. At the very beginning, everybody wanted to see the artist in his cage and there were even permanent watchers to ensure that he was not cheating and secretly eating. Besides, others tried to leave him alone for some moments, because they thought he would eat something in this time. Yet, he likes talking to people at night, being an insomniac, and also seeing people's joy when having breakfast at his expense. He sees such pleasure in fasting, that he would do it all the rest of his life. But his impresario has other plans for him: his fasting is allowed only for forty days. When the time comes, two ladies escort the artist to a luxuriant rich meal. Nevertheless, he remains on his position: he would not eat for anything in the world. Faced with his firm attitude, the impresario forces him to swallow some larder; the watchers leave satisfied, and the artist is left alone and dismal, as always.

During the years to come, the artist continues his public fasting and his manager starts to lie the audience, sustaining that not eating causes a deep tremendous sadness. but, one day, people left, attracted by other strange things. The artist was left alone with his impresario, who tried to reinstate his client's fame, by proposing a European continental tour. But nothing works. The artist is forced to get employed in a circus and removes himself from his impresario.

At the circus, he places his cage near the animals, so that people, when passing by the animals, would see him too. But an old man stops by and tells the children around him the hunger artist's unusual story. The notice board indicating the length of the fast is not updated, so the hunger artist simply continues to fast so that he may be breaking records, but no one, including him, knows. If someone accuses the hunger artist of cheating, he feels it is the "stupidest lie," since it is he who is being cheated when deprived of his "reward."

After a long time of disregard, the circus' staff remembers the artist and asks him if he is still fasting. He confirms and begins to ask the people around to forgive him, because, if he, some time ago, tried to convince everybody to admire him for his fasting, he must admit now that they shouldn't. The artist says that he didn't eat only because he didn't find any food to really like; otherwise, he would have eaten. Then he passes away. The circus' management buries him and a panther takes his place in the cage. People are fascinated by its force and beauty and remain there, in front of the panther, and never want to move away.

As we have seen, the artist is a typical Kafkaesque character, in other words, unusual and alienated. Starving is an ultimate form of physical suffering; the most important art of the hunger artist is suffering, and not that type of romantic, sweet grief, but an alienated misery in the modern, capitalist world. Nevertheless, the artist would eat if he found some food to really like - not ordinary. We should say that not eating is a metaphor for something more profound - but what? In his final words, he admits no one should envy him for his strength to fast… [END OF PREVIEW]

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